Skaters' tough jumps are landed off the ice Trip stirs controversy in Munich program

December 20, 1997|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

MUNICH, Germany -- Trash talking? At a figure skating event?

That was the scene at last night's Champions Series Final, as bluster edged out triples during a stormy opening session that even had performers debating the musical merits of the Beatles.

The main event occurred in ice dancing, of all disciplines.

Reigning Olympic champions Oksana Grishuk and Yvgeny Platov tripped onto their knees during the rock-and-roll original dance, but managed to hang onto first place heading into today's final.

Meanwhile, Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz were second and steamed after a nearly flawless performance.

"Our dance is extremely difficult," Grishuk said. "A different level than the other skaters. I assume that even if we fall we can still be No. 1."

Kraatz fired back: "All I can say is that dance is a sport. It has to be judged by what the skater does at that moment. No matter how good you are, you have to be judged at that moment."

A woman identified as Grishuk's aunt even got into the melee, when she lectured the Canadians that their performance to "I Saw Her Standing There" was not the prescribed rock and roll.

"The Beatles are rock and roll," Bourne snapped.

The aunt, whom Grishuk said was working for a German magazine, then told the Canadian skaters that they were hardly worthy of even second place.

Bourne was worked up by the judges who declined to severely penalize the Russians who slipped.

"It has been this way for a while," Bourne said. "It's just now people are asking. They want to know why. The fans are questioning and they have a right to. They really don't understand what is going on. To be honest, I don't understand.

"Maybe the fact it is becoming so open will do something," she added. "Keeping quiet, won't."

Things also got a bit nasty in the women's division, where 15-year-old American Tara Lipinski won the short program, while Russia's 25-year-old Maria Butryskaya was second.

Butryskaya then unloaded a few jabs against Lipinski, who has finished second in two events this season, after her astonishing rise to American and world titles last winter.

"The fact that Tara has already lost two times proves that the judges have had enough of childish skating," Butryskaya said.

She added that Lipinski could be vulnerable during today's free-skate final.

"It's possible I'll beat her," Butryskaya said. "I'm a woman on the ice. More artistic. She does nice jumps. But I think artistry makes the difference."

But jumps do matter.

Lutz or flutz, whatever it was, Lipinski landed the jump that has bedeviled her for months.

But deep down, she admitted, she was nervous during the taut, 2-minute, 30-second short program that is crammed with required elements pored over by a panel of seven critical judges, who punish even the smallest of miscues.

"I'm going to do this," Lipinski said, trying to explain the thoughts that went through her head as she performed the combination triple Lutz-double loop.

To land the Lutz, Lipinski had to take off cleanly from the back outside edge of her blade. A leap off the inside edge of the blade would have been a less-difficult flip.

Somehow, she managed the Lutz.

"This is my whole world, and, it's like, if I don't do it, it's the end," she said.

"There are so many other things to think about," Lipinski added. "All your nerves and all of your thoughts have to be so on the dot to do a clean program."

She survived though.

And she didn't stick around long enough to hear Butryskaya's criticism.

But all the harsh talk is part of the new skating landscape, with a world tour and big paychecks.

Winning individuals and teams will receive $50,000 checks at this competition.

And gold medals at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, could be worth millions of dollars more in prize money and endorsements.

By comparison, the men were perfect sports, as Canada's Elvis Stojko placed first, Russia's Ilia Kulik was second and American Todd Eldredge was third.

As they sat down after the competition, Eldredge told Stojko that the judges gave him low marks for a poor triple Lutz. And Stojko told his competitor, "I've been there."

Eldredge later said he was bothered by a blemished skate blade.

"All I can say is I stood up," Eldredge said. "It was a little rough."

But not half as rough as all the tough talk.

Pub Date: 12/20/97

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